Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review: How Dolly Parton Saved My Life

Summary: Dolly Parton once said," If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." In the bustling city of Atlanta, four very different ladies take her advice to heart and open a catering business that will cater to them—successful, independent women who put their families first.

But flouting the traditions and expectations of Southern society turns out to be more complicated than they ever anticipated. Even as the pressure of running a business bonds them together, the realities of managing real life threaten to tear the whole thing apart. As financial woes, personal hurts, and family troubles test the strength of their business and their friendship, they discover that sisterly support and lots of heartfelt prayer just might be the only way to survive.

Full of sass, grit, and good old-fashioned faith, How Dolly Parton Saved My Life is a hilarious and poignant look at friendship with a distinctly Southern flair. -- Broadway

My on-line book club wanted to read something a little lighter for the month of August, so we decided to go with HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE: A NOVEL OF THE JELLY JAR SISTERHOOD by Charlotte Connors. Unfortunately, I missed our meeting because my family was celebrating my kids' birthdays, but I'm not sure that this book was really an "ideal" pick for the women in our group anyway.

I don't regret reading this book, but I thought it was just okay. Parts of the story entertained me for a few hours, but I really don't think that I'll remember much about this book in a few weeks. It was part Southern fiction, part women's fiction, part chick lit, and (a big) part Christian fiction. Usually I would be drawn to a book that incorporates all of these components, but I'm sorry to say that HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE fell a little short for me.

HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE is the story of four women who join together to start a catering business. The chapters alternate between each of the women so the reader gets to know and understand each one of them. All four women have their fair share of personal issues from problems with their love life/husbands to issues with their children and their church. By the end of the story, each of the women discover things about themselves while at the same time developing friendships with the others.

I wasn't aware of this when I started the book, but there is also a pretty heavy Christian theme running throughout the novel. In fact, I definitely would classify HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE as Christian fiction. I don't read a lot of Christian fiction so I'm probably not the best judge, but I thought this book was almost heavy-handed at times. However, I did think that parts of this book were cute and it was a feel-good book about the strength of women and their friendships -- it's just not one that resonated with me as a whole.

The author did attempt to make this story multi-dimensional. She threw in some twists and surprises for the characters; however, I still found much of the story (and the characters) to be kind of predictable. I can't say that I minded reading the book, but there was nothing that kept me truly hooked on the story or the characters. Having said that, I did appreciate the basic messages that the author was trying to convey about motherhood, friendship, and faith.

There was one thing that did stand out to me in this book. I thought the quotations from Dolly Parton that were included were hilarious I can't really say that I know many Dolly Parton songs or lyrics (the extent of my knowledge is pretty much Dolly Parton night on American Idol), but I loved how funny and insightful many of the quotes were. I have to say my absolute favorite was the one at the end of the book:

"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."

I'm not sure that our book group had much to talk about, but there is a reader's guide available. Some of the themes that appear in the book include friendship, love, secrets, spiritual growth, mother-daughter relationships, self awareness, perseverance, the dilemmas of working moms, guilt, and trust to name a few. This book might work really well for a book group made of up young Christian moms.

Despite all of this, I do think that there is an audience for this novel. I can see that fans of very light Christian fiction might enjoy HOW DOLLY PARTON SAVED MY LIFE. Unfortunately, it just wasn't the right novel for me.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


Amy said...

You bring up a really good point about what Christian fiction's interesting b/c while I knew the authors were Christians, since the book was general market I didn't expect it to be. (otherwise trust me I would NEVER have suggested it to our book club) So what makes something Christian fiction? I wouldn't classify it as such, b/c the publisher isn't. :P

emneilsen said...

OMG I would so love an online book group. Could you tell me how to start one or how to join one?? Thanks for any info :)

Julie P. said...


Very interesting question because I wasn't expecting it to have such a Christian theme because it wasn't a Christian publisher; however, it had much stronger Christian themes (and many more references) than most of the books I read published by Christian publishers.

There was absolutely no doubt to me that the Christian themes were major in this book, so that's why I would classify it as Christian fiction. I think if someone who wasn't a Christian had picked up this book, they might be slightly uncomfortable (or maybe just not interested in it) with all of the references to hymns, church services, church groups, etc.

Having said all of that, I don't think the Christian themes were what I had a problem with in this novel! My issues were of a more thematic, character-type problem.

bermudaonion said...

The book was just okay for me, too. I just felt like the story never went anywhere - maybe because it felt predictable to me too.

Julie P. said...


A few of us mentioned on twitter that we were interested so we asked a few friends. I suggest just tossing the idea out there and seeing who is interested.

For logistics, we use skype and mebeam for the videoconferencing.

I hope this helps!

Meghan said...

I wasn't a huge fan of this book at all. I am actually not sure that I liked anything about it to the point where I might not write a review - it was just a perfect storm of things I didn't like.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

S. Krishna said...

I totally agree with your review, I felt the same way!!

Alyce said...

When I saw the part in the description "lots of heartfelt prayer" I knew it was probably a Christian fiction book. You list two things about Christian fiction that drive me crazy - heavy-handedness and predictability.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, as much as I thought the title was cute, I won't be reading it. I'm fine with Christian fiction, but this one just wouldn't cut it I don't think.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, as much as I thought the title was cute, I won't be reading it. I'm fine with Christian fiction, but this one just wouldn't cut it I don't think.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Too bad it didn't work out. I think I would find it very frustrating that the women decided on prayer instead of a business coach!

Anonymous said...

I'm very picky when it comes to Christian fiction, so I think I'll pass on this one. I'm sad to hear it was disappointing because I've always had a soft spot for Dolly Parton, though I'm not a huge fan of her music.

Beth F said...

I think you did a great job with this review. I don't think I missed anything by not finishing the book.